Reviews of the past two Sunday runs

I joined the 5th University Run at the Cebu Doc campus in Mandaue the other weekend and, two mornings ago, the Aboitiz Race To Reduce Challenge 2010.

How would I rate both? Very good. Compared to four years ago when I started, today’s races have vastly improved. Yet, I will cite a few “Needs Improvement” comments. But before that, the good news: On the two essential ingredients for a successful road run—Safety and Hydration—both races scored an “A.”

At the University Run, there were a multitude of water stops—plus Gatorade—as volunteers offered the most thirst-gratifying liquid. Same last Sunday. Unlike several events in the past when water was inadequate, it wasn’t like that with the Aboitiz Race (except the Gatorade; I never drank a sip as they ran out along the route.)

Safety? To me, the Cebu Doc run is the safest. Located around a loop surrounding the campus that’s blocked from vehicular traffic, this route is ideal. Same with Aboitiz: I noticed plenty of marshals and policemen manning the intersections of the 21K. Kudos!

UNIV. RUN. Here are more good points: The personalized bibs. This was a first. Imagine your name (“SIMON”) pasted on your chest? Two, providing participants the choice of either a singlet or shirt. (I suspect many of us have a foot-tall pile of singlets at home.) Three, Nature’s Valley and Fit ‘N Right food/drinks at the finish.

Needs Improvement: The bib. While personalized was unique, the use of paper as material was a mistake. In my case, after only 10 minutes of sweating, the paper succumbed to what paper succumbs to whenever mixed with water: it crumbled. Two, late start. While the race started on time at 6 a.m., I believe (for 10K and longer races) a 5:30 or 5:45 start is better—there’s less sun, less suffering. Three, an estimated 3,500 participants joined—many Cebu Doc students. But, as you know, their 3K was a 3K Walk. And so, runners couldn’t run straight but had to zigzag, weave, snake-run.

ABOITIZ. The Good: Timing chips. Two, the Sun.Star advertisement—a first! I’m sure every participant bought a copy yesterday. Three, the presence of Monchu Aboitiz. When I arrived before 5 a.m., the Aboitiz CEO was there. How many leaders are willing to disrupt their Sunday morning sleep to join? Same with Txabi Aboitiz. Which brings me to the weather. Said Txabi in our brief chat after the race: “We asked for the rain to pour at exactly 3 a.m. just before the run!” Yes. At 3:30 a.m., just an hour-plus before the start, rain drenched Cebu. But, as God planned it all along, the downpour cooled the road, readying the asphalt to be trampled upon by 2,500 pairs of shoes. We ran in perfect weather.

More good points: the masseurs who softened our stiffened leg muscles (for free)… the instrumentalists on-board a pick-up that moved around the route to regale us with reggae music… the flat/fast course… the breathtaking sunrise view along the SRP at 5:40 a.m… the sponges to cool our overheating bodies… the fire truck near SM that sprinkled water… these were super.

Improvements: First, the race pack, which contained no route map. (I had to scour through the Aboitiz website the night before.) Two, the late start. Advertised to begin at 5:15, we started at least 15 minutes late. Three, no countdown. With my companions at the starting line—Michelle So (now a certified half-marathoner!), Roy and Dr. Rosan Trani, Joel Garganera, Dr. Albert Santos, Dodong Sulatre—we waited for that adrenaline-inducing announcement: “ARE… YOU… READY?! TEN… NINE… EIGHT…”  Instead, we were startled when—bang!—the gun fired without warning. Four, no kilometer markers. (To race organizers: why not have one set printed then reuse them for each race?) Five, no clock at the finish. I did not wear a watch because I planned a relaxed run. At the finish line, I looked up to check my time—but there was no clock. Then I asked the people at the finish… nobody knew. Finally, I discovered my time yesterday—thanks to that two-page Sun.Star spread.

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